WARNER ROBINS -- After many Middle Georgia voters approved Sunday alcohol sales in their areas last November, Houston County added the possibility to the July 31 ballot.
In two separate referendums, voters are asked whether alcohol sales should be allowed on Sundays in stores -- by the package -- and at restaurants -- by the drink. Early voting began July 9 and ends July 27.
If referendums in Houston County pass, the decisions would be effective Aug. 12, according to the resolutions commissioners passed in March. It would affect businesses in unincorporated areas of the county only, so only residents in those areas will address the questions.
Voters in the cities got a chance to vote last year, but voters in the unincorporated areas did not, said Tommy Stalnaker, Houston County Commission chairman.
Many Georgia governments posed the Sunday sales question to voters in November, following a General Assembly decision to lift a ban against sales of packaged alcoholic drinks on Sundays. So far, most referendums have passed, including in Bibb County, Macon, Warner Robins, Byron, Perry and Centerville.
In some Middle Georgia cities that previously banned alcohol by the drink as well, governments added the option. Voters in Warner Robins, Perry and Byron also approved the by-the-drink measure.
Melvin Walker, Peach County Commission chairman, said commissioners are working to add a referendum for Sunday package sales of alcohol to the November ballot. Voters approved a by-the-drink referendum in November.
They began the process too late for the July ballot, he said.
All of our surrounding counties have some form of Sunday sales, Walker said. Our retailers are telling us its hard for them to compete, (and) people want it.
Competition is also part of the reason Houston County chose to add the Sunday sales referendums, Stalnaker said. He said businesses in the unincorporated areas have asked since November for the referendums.
In Houston County, one side of the street may be in the city, and the other side may be in the county, Stalnaker said. So those businesses felt they were at a disadvantage.
Stalnaker said he hasnt heard of any businesses that have left the county for the city because of alcohol regulations, but it could happen.
I would anticipate that if it continues into the future (with sales allowed in cities but not the county) then they would either move into the city or annex into a city.
The chairman said if the stars had aligned, all residents in Houston County would have addressed referendums at the same time. But the cities had general elections last year, and the county didnt, he said.
He said it was not a case of the county waiting to see what happened in the cities.
We would have gave the people an opportunity to vote one way or the other, he said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.